London Technology Week: The Kit Malthouse interview
London Technology Week kicks off today celebrating London-based technology companies and the Capital's ability to compete against well known tech areas like Silicon Valley.
The hope is that London Technology Week will become equal to, or better than, London Fashion Week. But does a week of events dotted around the city have the power to make a difference?
Pocket-lint sat down with Kit Malthouse, deputy Mayor of London, to discuss what he believe's London needs to do, and how London Tech Week will help.
We will ever get to a point where we will compete with Silicon Valley or are we already there?
Well I don't know if compete is the right word. All boats will rise on a rising tide. This isn't a zero sum game, right? We want to sit alongside Silicon Valley and cross fertilise with them.
The idea of London Tech Week is that they will come here and see the opportunities that are available. Bring some of the risk capital, some of their ideas, but that our companies will have access to some of the expertise over there.
This is an industry that works and prospers on collaboration, and so working together we believe we can take our place if you like as the hub in Europe, the landing place for science and tech alongside Silicon Valley, and Singapore and the like. There is no monopoly on this, we can all share the wealth that will be created.
A lot of events are focused on business. Are there enough events for consumers?
It is primarily a business event, but there will be a lot of events that young people can engage in. To show them the opportunities for training, for business startups, jobs and all that kind of stuff, but instilling in them that they can participate. But primarily like London Fashion Week, it is about bringing the industry together in London as a kind of crossroads in the world of tech so we can cement ourselves as a place where this industry can prosper.
How long, do you think, will it take before London Tech Week is on par with London Fashion Week?
To be honest with you I thought it was going to take a couple of years, but judging by the response to the initiative I think it is only going to take one.
We are putting on over 130 events at the moment. Globally there hasn't been anything like this before, there is a first mover advantage as they say in tech and we are in at the start.
Here is the test, as they finish their first tech week, they book their tickets for the next one in the hotel as they check out. Then we will know we have succeeded.
Pocket-lint went to Austin recently, and whenever you go to America, Americans are always very positive. How do you try and instil that attitude here in the UK and will London Tech Week help that?
You are right, there has been that issue for us, although we are getting there. If you go to the co-working spaces around London you will get that sense of optimism, but we also don't have the level of risk capital or the type of risk capital in this country that has that approach, that says frankly "I am not going to look at that business idea unless I can see this business guy has failed two or three times before they come to me". Part of London Tech Week is attracting risk capital providers from across the world to help us change that culture.
We used to be, 150 years ago, the risk takers of the world. We built the railways in places like Brazil and China where no one else would go. We founded the modern textile industry, so it is within us, we have it culturally in our past, we just need to reawaken it and what we hope is events like London Tech Week and the incredible air of optimism promoted from this building [we are standing on the balcony over looking the Thames at London City Hall] and not least by the London Mayor himself that we can light a fire under that spirit.
What events are you looking forward to during London Tech Week?
Tax and Tech. I am a chartered accountant. Tax is all important as the venture capitalists will tell you. To me, anything about equity and risk capital, I'll be there.
It is the alchemy that makes it all possible. If we don't have risk capital all you've got is an idea. So attracting it here, cementing it here, making sure it has the right tax environment is critical. It might sound boring rather than sexy, but accountants run the world.